Ron King has had an artistic life that spans a multi faceted and inspiring 60 years. His iconographic work is marked by a distinctive, fresh and often pioneering approach. As an artist his work can’t be pinned down to by genre but it does have an approach that is hallmarked by a distinctively curious, questioning and energetic approach. Click to see a 'Small Group' of his work as artist in this time.
Born in São Paulo, Brazil in 1932, Ron still has a strong attachment to the country and its culture. At the age of 12 he became fascinated with the macabre photograph that he saw in a book of his father’s of the decapitated heads of the infamous bandit leader Lampião and his notorious band. An image that he still can’t quite let go of today and one that has informed a long exploration which you can find expressed in much of his work to do with masks and character. Sent to England in 1945, Ron attended Ardingly College in West Sussex and in 1951 he went on to gain entrance to Chelsea School of Art.
Ron picked up a scholarship at Chelsea for his painting and then several art awards when he emigrated to Canada, with his wife and sculptor Willow Legge in 1956. Here he worked as an art director in McLean Hunter publishing house. In 1960 Ron returned to the UK with his family to paint for his first one-man show in Toronto. In 1961 while teaching at Farnham School of Art he took up printmaking, which led to a contract in 1964 with the well known print publishers Editions Alecto. Unable to publish his first book ‘The Prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales’ with them, he followed through the project himself and formed Circle Press.
By 1969 he had set up an active, productive workshop in Guildford with a group of like-minded artists and poets to produce limited edition artist books, poster and prints. Success came (of the enterprise) and continued when Ron and the press moved to London in1988 to set up shop in the epicentre of the West Indian Carnival district in Notting Hill and there it stayed for the next 25 years with an ever growing number of poets like Roy Fisher, George Szirtes, Richard Price and artists John Christie, Ian Tyson and newcomers Karen Bleitz, Sam Winston and Victoria Bean, contributing to its output.
Lectures, exhibitions and sales trips in the UK and abroad culminated in 2002 with the purchase of the press' complete output and archives by the Paul Mellon Foundation at The Yale Center for British Art in New Haven Connecticutt. A similar collection in the UK was donated in 2013 to Cardiff University under the umbrella of Scolar.
Today Ron is considered one of the modern day masters of artist books. Ron and his collaborators have built up a considerable body of work, producing over 200 publications and individual works, most of which are held in major public and private collections worldwide. You can view the catalogue of works at Circle Press.
Not to be pinned down to only making books, he is also a painter collagist and sculptor. This site hopes to show you the breadth of his work both abstract and figurative with his bold use of colour, his skill and inventiveness in how he works paper, wood and metal all of which mark him out as a truly original all-round artist. Today, at 83, he continues to work and create in his studio on the coast of West Sussex currently focussing on large wooden sculpture.
Click Ron’s Biography for a list version.
For a comprehensive read you might like to read ' The Looking Book' 1997 ISBN 0 901380 717 or 'Cooking the Books : Ron King and Circle Press 2002 ISBN 0930606965 (catalogue raisonne)
Ron was photographed by the immensely talented Nadia Mackenzie.